But, on the other hand, the Doctors answer as follows, especially S. Thomas where he asks whether it is unlawful to hang sacred words round the neck. Their opinion is that, in all charms and writings so worn, there are two things to be avoided.
First, in whatever is written there must be nothing that savours of an invocation of devils; for then it is manifestly superstitious and unlawful, and must be judged as an apostasy from the faith, as has often been said before.
Similarly, in accordance with the above seven conditions, it must not contain any unknown names. But if these two snares be avoided, it is lawful both to place such charms on the lips of the sick, and for the sick to carry them with them. But the Doctors condemn their use in one respect, that is, when a man pays greater attention to and has more reliance upon the mere signs of the written letters than upon their meaning.
It may be said that a layman who does not understand the words cannot pay any attention to their meaning. But it is enough if such a man fixes his thoughts on the Divine virtue, and leaves it to the Divine will to do what seems good to His mercy.
In the third place we have to consider whether the devil is to be conjured and the disease exorcised at the same time, or whether a different order should be observed, or whether one of these operations can take place without the other. Here there are several points to be considered. First, whether the devil is always present when the sick man is afflicted. Second, what sort of things are capable of being exorcised or remedied. Third, the method of exorcising.
For the first point, it would seem, following that pronouncement of S. John Damascene that where the devil operates there he is, that the devil is always present in the sick man when he afflicts him. Also in the history of S. Bartholomew it seems that a man is only delivered from the devil when he is cured of his sickness.
But this can be answered as follows. When it is said that the devil is present in a sick man, this can be understood in two ways: either that he is personally present, or that he is present in the effect which he has caused. In the first sense he is present when he first causes the sickness; in the second sense he is said to be present not personally but in the effect. In this way, when the Doctors ask whether the devil substantially inhabits a man who commits mortal sin, they say that he is not personally present, but only in effect; just as a master is said to dwell in his servants in respect of his mastership. But the case is quite otherwise with men who are possessed by a devil.
For the second point, as to what sort of things can be exorcised, the opinion of S. Thomas, Book IV, dist. 6, should be noted, where he says that on account of man's sin the devil receives power over a man and over everything which a man uses, to hurt him with them; and since there can be no compromise of Christ with Belial, therefore whenever anything is to be sanctified for Divine worship, it is first exorcised that it may be consecrated to God freed from the power of the devil, by which it might be turned to the hurt of men. This is shown in the blessing of water, the consecration of a church, and in all matters of this sort. Therefore, since the first act of reconciliation by which a man is consecrated to God is in baptism, it is necessary that man should be exorcised before he is baptized; indeed in this it is more imperative than in any other circumstance. For in man himself lies the cause by reason of which the devil receives his power in other matters which are brought about by man, namely, sin, either original or actual. This then is the significance of the words that are used in exorcism, as when it is said, Depart, O Satan, from him; and likewise of the things that are then done.
To return, then, to the actual point. When it is asked whether the disease is to be exorcised and the devil abjured, and which of these should be done first; it is answered that not the disease, but the sick and bewitched man himself is exorcised: just as in the case of a child, it is not the infection of the fomes which is exorcised, but the child itself. Also, just as the child is first exorcised, and then the devil is abjured to depart; so also is the bewitched person first exorcised, and afterwards the devil and his works are bidden to depart. Again, just as salt and water are exorcised, so are all things which can be used by the sick man, so that it is expedient to exorcise and bless chiefly his food and drink. In the case of baptism the following ceremony of exorcism is observed: the exsufflation towards the West and the renunciation of the devil; secondly, the raising of the hands with a solemn confession of the faith of the Christian religion; thirdly, prayer, benediction, and the laying on of hands; fourthly, the stripping and anointing with Holy Oil; and after baptism, the communion and the putting on of the chrisom, he is to remain bound naked to a Holy Candle of the length of Christ's body or of the Cross. And then may be said the following:
I exorcise thee, Peter, or thee, Barbara, being weak but reborn in Holy Baptism, by the living God, by the true God, by God Who redeemed thee with His Precious Blood, that thou mayest be exorcised, that all the illusions and wickedness of the devil's deceits may depart and flee from thee together with every unclean spirit, adjured by Him Who will come to judge both the quick and the dead, and who will purge the earth with fire. Amen.
Let us pray.
O God of mercy and pity, Who according to Thy tender lovingkindness chastenest those whom Thou dost cherish, and dost gently compel those whom Thou receivest to turn their hearts, we invoke Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt vouchsafe to bestow Thy grace upon Thy servant who suffereth from a weakness in the limbs of his body, that whatever is corrupt by earthly frailty, whatever is made violate by the deceit of the devil, may find redemption in the unity of the body of the Church. Have mercy, O Lord, on his groaning, have mercy upon his tears; and as he putteth his trust only in Thy mercy, receive him in the sacrament of Thy reconciliation, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Therefore, accursed devil, hear thy doom, and give honour to the true and living God, give honour to the Lord Jesus Christ, that thou depart with thy works from this servant whom our Lord Jesus Christ hath redeemed with His Precious Blood.
Then let him exorcise him a second and yet a third time, with the prayers as above.
Let us pray.
God, Who dost ever mercifully govern all things that Thou hast made, incline Thine ear to our prayers, and look in mercy upon Thy servant labouring under the sickness of the body; visit him, and grant him Thy salvation and the healing virtue of Thy heavenly grace, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Therefore, accursed devil, etc.
The prayer for the third exorcism.
O God, the only protection of human frailty, show forth the mighty power of Thy strong aid upon our sick brother (or sister), that being holpen by Thy mercy he (she) may be worthy to enter Thy Holy Church in safety, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
And let the exorcist continually sprinkle him with Holy Water. And note that this method is recommended, not because it must be rigidly observed, or that other exorcisms are not of greater efficacy, but that there should be some regular system of exorcism and adjuration. For in the old histories and books of the Church there are sometimes found more devout and powerful exorcisms; but since before all things the reverence of God is necessary, let each proceed in this matter as he finds it best.
In conclusion, and for the sake of clearness, we may recommend this form of exorcism for a person who is bewitched. Let him first make a good confession (according to the often-quoted Canon: If by sortilege, etc.). Then let a diligent search be made in all corners and in the beds and mattresses and under the threshold of the door, in case some instrument of witchcraft may be found. The bodies of animals bewitched to death are at once to be burned. And it is expedient that all bed-clothes and garments should be renewed, and even that he should change his house and dwelling. But in case nothing is found, then he who is to be exorcised should if possible go into the church in the morning, especially on the Holier Days, such as the Feast of Our Lady, or on some Vigil; and the better if the priest also has confessed and is in a state of grace, for then the stronger will he be. And let him who is to be exorcised hold in his hand a Holy Candle as well as he can, either sitting or kneeling; and let those who are present offer up devout prayers for his deliverance. And let him begin the Litany at Our help is in the Name of the Lord, and let one be appointed to make the responses: let him sprinkle him with Holy Water, and place a stole round his neck, and recite the Psalm Haste thee, O God, to deliver me; and let him continue the Litany for the Sick, saying at the Invocation of the Saints, Pray for him and be favourable; deliver him, O Lord, continuing thus to the end. But where the prayers are to be said, then in the place of the prayers let him begin the exorcism, and continue in the way we have declared, or in any other better way, as seems good to him. And this sort of exorcism may be continued at least three times a week, that so through many intercessions the grace of health may be obtained.
Finally, he must receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist; although some think that this should be done before the exorcism. And at his confession the confessor must inquire whether he is under any bond of excommunication, and if he is, whether he has rashly omitted to obtain absolution from his Judge; for then, although he may at his discretion absolve him, yet when he has regained his health, he must seek absolution also from the Judge who excommunicated him.
It should further be noted that, when the exorcist is not ordained to the Order of Exorcist, then he may proceed with prayers; and if he can read the Scriptures, let him read the beginnings of the four Gospels of the Evangelists, and the Gospel beginning, There was an Angel sent; and the Passion of our Lord; all of which have great power to expel the works of the devil. Also let the Gospel of S. John, In the beginning was the Word, be written and hung round the sick man's neck, and so let the grace of healing be looked for from God.
But if anyone asks what is the difference between the aspersion of Holy Water and exorcism, since both are ordained against the plagues of the devil, the answer is supplied by S. Thomas, who says: The devil attacks us from without and from within. Therefore Holy Water is ordained against his attacks from without; but exorcism against those from within. For this reason those for whom exorcism is necessary are called Energoumenoi, from En, meaning In, and Ergon, meaning Work, since they labour within themselves. But in exorcising a bewitched person both methods are to be used, because he is tormented both within and without.
Our second main consideration is what is to be done when no healing grace results from exorcisms. Now this may happen for six reasons; and there is a seventh about which we suspend any definite judgement. For when a person is not healed, it is due either to want of faith in the bystanders or in those who present the sick man, or to the sins of them who suffer from the bewitchment, or to a neglect of the due and fitting remedies, or to some flaw in the faith of the exorcist, or to the lack of a greater trust in the powers of another exorcist, or to the need of purgation and for the increased merit of the bewitched person.
Concerning the first four of these the Gospel teaches us in the incident of the only son of his father, who was a lunatic, and of the disciples of Christ being there present (S. Matthew xvii. And S. Mark ix.). For in the first place He said that the multitude were without faith; whereupon the father prayed Him, saying: Lord, I believe: help Thou mine unbelief. And JESUS said to the multitude: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?
Secondly, with regard to him who endured the devil, JESUS rebuked him, that is, the son; for, as Saint Jerome says, he had been tormented by the devil because of his sins.
Thirdly, this illustrates the neglect of the rightful remedies, because good and perfect men were not at first present. For S. John Chrysostom says: The pillars of faith, namely, Peter and James and John, were not present, for they were at the Transfiguration of Christ: neither were there prayer and fasting, without which Christ said that this sort of devil goeth not out. Therefore Origen, writing on this passage, says: If at any time a man be not cured after prayer, let us not wonder or ask questions or speak, as if the unclean spirit were listening to us; but let us cast out our evil spirits by prayer and fasting. And the gloss says: This sort of devil, that is, the variability of carnal desires induced by that spirit, is not conquered except by strengthening the soul with prayer, and subduing the flesh with fasting.
Part II, Question II, Chapter VI
was transcribed by Christie Rice.
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